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Brazil Tours

Caatinga

Brazil / Travel & Tours – Caatinga, which in the native indian language tupi - guarani means "clear, open forest" is the right travel choice for all those ecotourists who like to experience a tropical semi-desert. Caatinga is the largest dry forest region in South America and characterized by a semi - arid climate, low and unregular rainfall, fertile soils and an apparently dry vegetation.

The main characteristic components of this ecoregion can be grouped into: area / location, geology, climate, soils, vegetation / flora and biological diversity.

Area / Location

The Caatinga scrubland biome comprises about 850.000 km2, which represents 10% of the Brazilian territory. It is located in Brazil's northeast region, covering the states of Piauí, Ceará, Rio Grande do Norte, Paraíba, Pernambuco, Alagoas, Sergipe and Bahia. To the east and the west, it is surrounded by the Atlantic Rainforest and the Cerrado biome.

Geology / Geomorphology

The Caatinga occurs on Precambrian terrains of the Borborema Province, in the north of the Atlantic Shield. It is repleted with Neoproterozoic granitic bodies (plutons) which intruded the province during the collision of continental blocks, in the course of the Brasiliano - Pan African orogenic cycle (see Gondwana).

Climate

The climate of the Caatinga is semi - arid with an extended dry season of up to eight month. These particular climate conditions for the (normally humid) tropics results on the one hand from the dominance of dry, continental air masses coming from the Equator and on the other hand from the presence of high-pressure areas which during the winter month form over the Atlantic, invade the hot and depressed Caatinga, protecting it so from the humid oceanic air masses. Due to its proximity to the Equator, temperatures are constantly around 25°C with average precipitations of just 600 mm. Most rivers run dry in winter.

Soils

The lack of water storage capacity, due to the rocky, shallow grounds, additionally complicates this situation. On the other hand, compared to the Cerrado, the soils of the Caatinga contain sufficient minerals and are pretty fertile. This is why the best travel time to this biome is the short rainy season, when the Caatinga all of a sudden is being transformed into a blooming garden.

Vegetation

Caatinga's vegetation is classified as seasonal deciduous steppe savannah. Its flora is composed of three stratums: open trees (8 to 12 meters high), spiny / thorny bushes and shrub, often mixed with cactuses and bromeliads (2-5 m) and grasses (less than 2 m).

Flora

The flora of the Caatinga has a long history of adaptation to the heat and dryness of the region. The leaves, for instance, are tiny and numerous (to reduce heat absorption). Some plants store water, like the cactuses; others have very shallow roots, so that they can absorb the water near the surface; many are spiny.

Biodiversity

Different from what most people thing, the Caatinga offers a variety of landscapes and has a relatively large biodiversity. So far, around 1,200 species of vascular plants, 185 fishes, 44 lizards, 9 amphisbaenians, 47 snakes, 4 turtles, 3 crocodylia, 49 amphibians, 350 birds, and 80 mammals have been identified. The percentage of endemics is very high among vascular plants (around 30 percent), but somewhat lower among vertebrates (up to 10 percent). Most animals have nocturnal habits.

Travel & Tours / Ecotourism

For eco travel and adventure tours it is recommended to visit some of Caatinga's conservation units such as Chapada Diamantina or Serra da Capivara National Park ( World Heritage Site since 1991).